13 December 2006

Whoa! Did the Grammys get relevant?

Psych! The title of this post is a trick question. Of course the Grammys didn't get relevant! The only relevant award show is The Oscars! I mean, really. Name one other award show that will prompt me to get up and watch the live announcement of nominees. Name one other award show that has gotten me to drag my ass all the way to New Haven, just so I can watch said live announcment with my friend Rachel while we eat rum waffles and loudly praise the enduring glory of Queen Latifah.

Wait... what? Solipsism? What's that?

Anyway, no one's pretending that the Grammys are anything but a show you read about the next day instead of watching live. However, I'm happy and a little shocked to report that this year's nominees make me care. And that's good, because I always want to care about awards shows. They just usually let me down.

Consider the following facts:

(1) Bob Dylan released an album this year, and it did not get any major nominations.

That's a huge deal, since the Grammy folks tend to automatically nominate every record created by someone who first rose to prominence in the sixties. Last year, Paul McCartney got a best album nod for "Chaos and Creation in the Back Yard Full of Records That No One Cares About." When I was in college, Steely Freaking Dan won the best album award. And Green Day's "American Idiot" lost to Ray Charles' moribund "Genius Loves Company." Oh. My. God. I know a legend died, but wasn't Jamie Foxx's Oscar enough of a tribute?

I mean, Grandpa may whittle an eagle, but that doesn't mean it can fly. The Grammys lose credibility when the nominators fall back on music from artists who were popular forty years ago. It announces them as fogies who stubbornly refuse to admit that good music might possibly have been created after that godly time known as the 1960s.

And I'm not saying that new equals good. I'm saying that Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan and Steely Dan have been making the same records for decades. Are they good? Maybe. Yes. Sure. But awards and nominations are much more interesting when they go to artists who are doing something that sounds current. Or at least doing something different from what they've done before. (As a side note... if they've just got to nominate older artists, why didn't these people shower praise on Loretta Lynn for her exceptional, genre-busting record "Van Lear Rose?" Where was the best album nod for her?)

Not nominating Ol' Man Dylan, though, is a good sign. All of this year's albums reflect the present culture instead of the past.

(2) This year's nominees
--be they loved or hated--at least played some role in the public conscious-
ness. This means we the people might actually be able to give a damn about the awards and argue about them on the subway, instead of snorting in disbelief that some farty old dude swept every category.

It's easy, for instance, to care about Gnarls Barkley, nominated for record and album of the year. And while Corinne Bailey Rae--a nominee for record and song of the year, plus best new artist--may not be edgy, she's at least interesting.

The Grammy people have been nominating the Dixie Chicks for years--and rightfully so--but this year it's especially awesome that they picked up record and song nominations for "Not Ready to Make Nice" and an album nod for "Taking the Long Way." No matter their politics, the Chicks made incredible music in 2006, and it deserves awards.

And guess who else got a best new artist nomination? Imogen Heap! Fabulous lead singer of Frou Frou and recently fabulous solo artist! Her Grammy love is just so... cool. I mean, Imogen Heap is so cool that her coolness may actually get diminished by a nomination, you know? But it also feels kind of vindicating that she got noticed. Like that year they gave a best new artist nomination to SWV.

Now, there are definitely some crappy nominees in the big categories. James Blunt for record of the year and best new artist? John Mayer for album? Sucktown. But even the crap nominees were popular enough to engender real hatred. And that makes for great office banter!

(3) In a stroke of genius, Mary J. Blige has received the most nominations of any artist. This means she will likely perform at the Grammy ceremony.

And I cannot stress this enough: When Mary J. Blige performs on a national broadcast, we are given a new reason to live. Have you seen this woman? When she sings on TV, she gets so passionate that her earrings fly off. Her body doubles over. Duet partners get destroyed in a blast of nuclear light. Remember how, on the season finale of the most recent American Idol, Elliott Yamin just got twenty feet out of her way? That's because Mary J. owns it, y'all. Everyone else can just take notes.

And this time, Mary's up for everything! Record of the year? Song of the year? Six other categories? Yes, yes, yes! That means she'll have even more energy. Even more of a statement to make. She will no doubt turn "Be Without You" into a searing revelation of her scarred, beautiful soul.

I haven't even seen this Grammy performance yet, and already I want to give it an Emmy.



At 2:10 PM, Blogger Liz said...

Mark, I trust you're not the type to poo-poo an album without first giving it a listen. Have you listened to John Mayer's Continuum, beyond "Waiting for the World to Change"? It's good. I know just his name brings up visions of screaming teenage girls, but the music makes up for it.

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

Busted! You're right, Liz. I haven't actually listened to the entire album, and I even liked "Waiting for the World to Change." I wrote a post about that unexpected fact a few months ago.

My entire consignment of Mayer to Sucktown is based on my response to his previous albums, not on this one. I'll go give the samples a listen.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Ryan said...

I would like to make 2 points:

1. I like the Steely Dan album that won for best album a few years back. Donald Fagen's latest album, eh, not so much.

2. Imogen Heap. Solid.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Mark Blankenship said...

If this is the Ryan with whom I went to college, then I knew you were going to say that about Steely Dan! Awesome!

And I support your right to love. And hell... maybe "Two Against Nature" really was the best album that year. However, I still think it's kind of boring that it won, and for that reason alone I wish it hadn't. I can't be a rational critic all the time.

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Jenni said...

Mary J. Blige fucking rocks my world.

If she performed with Dolly and Reba, I may have had a coronary and an orgasm at the same time.

Oooh, did I share too much?


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